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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Parts of Hispaniola are being hit with heavy rains as Fred, a tropical depression, moves north of Cuba Thursday evening.

At 11 p.m. ET Thursday, the system had maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour and was about 450 miles east-southeast of Key West, Florida. It was moving west-northwest at 9 mph.

Fred is expected to be over the southeastern Bahamas Friday morning and to move along or just north of eastern and central Cuba later Thursday into Friday. It should be near the Florida Keys and South Florida on Saturday.

“There could be an eventual landfall in the Florida Panhandle. But this system will stay on the weaker side,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Leigh Spann.

“It should not get much stronger today or tomorrow as it heads northwest along the northern coast of Cuba,” Leigh added. “If the system holds together enough, it could turn into the Gulf of Mexico and get a little stronger heading north off the west coast of Florida. That puts the timing for rain/wind locally late Saturday through Sunday afternoon.”

The hurricane center said slow strengthening is expected Friday through Saturday, and Fred is forecast to regain tropical-storm strength as it nears the Florida Keys and South Florida.

Beginning Friday and into next week, South Florida could see three to six inches of rain with some areas seeing isolated amounts of eight inches. Forecasters warn the heavy rain could lead to areal, urban, and small stream flooding, along with possible rapid river rises.

Fred is forecast to dump three to five inches of rain on the Dominican Republic Thursday with some areas seeing isolated amounts of eight inches. The rain could lead to dangerous flooding and mudslides. Haiti, the Turks and Caicos, eastern Bahamas, and eastern Cuba could see one to three inches of rain with some areas seeing isolated amounts of five inches. The western Bahamas could see three to five inches of rain with isolated maximum totals of eight inches.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for…

  • The Cuban provinces of Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, and Granma
  • The Florida Keys west of Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas
  • The southwest coast of Florida from Bonita Beach south and east to Ocean Reef including Florida Bay